The Thing About Negative Sum Games Is, You Can Lose

In my Sunday discussion with my sainted Mother, I asked her if she had read one of my posts.  She sniffed something to the effect “terrible of you to give people ideas like that”.*

So, just to be clear, I don’t approve of killing people unless they deserve it, and think they only deserve it if they are trying to kill me.  Surviving, I will think myself very foolish for not having avoided such a negative-sum game**.  Playing zero- or negative-sum games in all of their varieties is a well-explored error, I don’t need to redo it.

The thing about negative sum games is that you can lose.  Sometimes all the players lose,  Can lose everything up to their lives.

So as a matter of strategy, of intelligently choosing the problems and opportunities in my life, I try very hard to play positive sum games exclusively.  I don’t always get to do that, sometimes people I do business or tech with turn out to be less than honest, but on the whole, I have been successful.  As a result I have worked with a good group of people through my career in engineering and had a wide variety of interesting jobs in interesting technologies.

I don’t claim I have been successful in all other ways, e.g. I am not rich.  No strategy guarantees that.  I have not been uniformly successful in love, no strategy guarantees that, either.

No strategy guarantees anything, although some negative-sum tactics have a high risk of producing a scorched earth around you, of scorching you too.

So I write those “The only problem with this technology is, …” and stories of how patriots can use them to cause mahem to warn our rulers that they are going to lose their asses if someone is dumb enough to start violence.  Please nobody do that, not patriots nor anyone else.  Revolutions are both negative sum and not controllable systems, historically they have a very high rate of going wrong with bad consequences for generations.  We could all end up in a 2nd-world economy, those of us left alive.

IMHO, there isn’t much that can be done to redirect the situation, very large flows of money and goods have momentum, the system depends on them and won’t change without large changes in those flows of money and goods.  Those are happening, but it will be a long process judging from prior historical situations handwavingly-like this one.

Nobody can predict timing in these large systems, even when they are operating ‘normally’.  Predicting the future is a game for pundits, all nonsense.  If they knew anything, they would make $ from their understanding****.  Me too.

Forget predicting, anticipating, doing more than listing the kind of things you know you need for life and thinking about what it takes to provide them if supplies were stopped. In financial terms, you are buying insurance or options when you prepare for problems.

All we can do is change ourselves to adapt as things change.

We Freedom people will win by our example.  We will be the successful survivors, individual and community.  We will be survivors because we knew the evolve-to-survival game can only be won at a community level. We will win because we decided to think more and assume less, to work on our communities.  Because our positive-sum games of community will produce ever-better lives for all.***

There is no other way that is possible and positive-sum.  Organizing and prepping and adapting and cooperating across as large a groups as possible is the optimum path forward from any point, from both the math and historical experience.

*I am such an amateur small-timer in the ‘give them ideas business’.  Bruce Schneier has been running contests for the best terrorist plot to make into a movie for years.  Ideas are a drug on the market, ask any Venture Capitalist.

Schneier thinks obvious plots are not done because those are harder than they look, any small barrier separates the kind of people who would do that from those who could.  Yes, but also we don’t have many, very very few, in fact.  Chatanooga was another example of how NSA can’t predict anything, btw.

**Any violence is negative sum, you will be affected, expended clips and the need to clean the gun at minimum.  OTOH, everyone responds to incentives, and, it seems to me, our rulers are failing and therefore trending weak, it is time to push on all fronts.

***Not Utopian, but because any other goal requires negative-sum components to the game.  Those always come back to bite.  Positive sum, no negative sum anywhere.

****Remember when some of the Taleb “Black Swan’s are underestimated in risk” -style investors reported they had figured out trades, and made them, to ‘short Japan’?  That was about a year before the tsunami. They wrote about it after their trade.

6 thoughts on “The Thing About Negative Sum Games Is, You Can Lose

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